This is less a progress report, and rather more a call for community togetherness and sharing of practice in these strange circumstances we find ourselves in.
Reports of Covid-19, or Coronavirus as it is more popularly called, hit the UK – where I am based, back in January. Whilst at the time, the news mainly focused on Wuhan, which is geographically very distant from Brighton, where the University of Sussex is situated, our community were well aware of the impact felt by our Chinese colleagues and friends, and those others with close-ties to this area. Despite a brief and small ‘outbreak’ in our city, in February, I do not think any of us were prepared for the global lockdowns that were to come.
I would like to start discussion with this blog about how Holocaust museums, memorial sites, educational organisations and archives have dealt with transitions to online-only engagement with ‘visitors’ and audiences at this time. In both my professional and research experience, I know that face-to-face survivor talks are fundamental to a large number of educational projects across the world and whilst organisations such as USC Shoah Foundation, California and the National Holocaust Centre here in the UK have created interactive digital survivor testimony experiences, these still need to be viewed onsite (or at least that’s my understanding of both projects).
Furthermore, whilst there are some excellent online learning resources about the Holocaust, I have found many digital projects to rely on, or at least work to their full potential, when explored in actual locations of historical relevance, such as ‘Spaces of Memory’ at Bergen-Belsen or the Oshpitzin app, which enables self-guided Jewish history tours of the Polish town, Oswiecim.
Whilst we can find ‘teachable’ or ‘researchable’ moments at most times in our lives if we look hard enough, the present time feels like one in which we should look for ‘community’ moments. So, I would like to invite those working in organisations related to Holocaust memory, education and research to share how they are adapting to online-only delivery of content. I hope the questions below might help – please do share links and examples, and perhaps we can build an archive here that is accessible across the globe.
- How ‘ready’ did you feel for the closure of physical spaces and collections?
- How much free and easily accessible online content did you already have? Could you share examples with links?
- What kinds of digital projects have you/ are you creating specifically in response to the conditions the pandemic has caused? Could you give some examples and links?
- What challenges has this pandemic caused, particularly in relation to the shift to online-only provision?
- What lessons are being/have been learnt?
- How might these changes help you think about the potential of digital Holocaust memory, education and research in the future?
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